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A Chef’s Christmas

Our foodie authors share their top tips for planning a festive feast.

Delegate

'People like to feel useful – delegate tasks so that everyone can be involved in the getting dinner on the table. Guests will feel more comfortable if they’re occupied, especially at the start of the night.' – Rachel Khoo.

Try these White Chocolate and Berry Coconut Mountains from Rachel's most recent cookbook, The Little Swedish Kitchen.



Plan it well

'Do as much shopping as you can right now, not two days beforehand. Abandon unrealistic menus that would be achievable if you had three kitchen-hands and a refrigerator twice the size of the one you own. Just because it is Christmas most people can still only eat the same quantity of food as the day before. And the shops do not close for a month – maybe 2-3 days at most.' – Stephanie Alexander.

Stephanie’s Berry Pancakes from The Cook’s Apprentice make the perfect Christmas breakfast.



Pimp up your shop-bought goods

'Jazz up some shop-bought mincemeat to make your mince pies the envy of your friends. Just add some extra lemon and lime zest, dried cherries and a splash of good brandy. You can do the same with cranberry sauce – chop up some apples, pears and quinces (if you can find them) and lightly fry in a little butter with a few bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and a tiny bit of sugar and you can start to caramelise those fruits. Then add in a jar of shop-bought cranberry sauce and give it a good warm through, incorporating everything together. Those flavours will really lift the flavour of any standard cranberry sauce.' – Jamie Oliver.

From Jamie Cooks Italy comes a zesty, impressive Amalfi Lemon Tart – a delightful way to end a festive meal.



Make ahead

'Nuts can be toasted, batter mixture made, stuffing prepped, grains cooked and refreshed, vegetables blanched and dried or, even (in the case of wedges of aubergines or squash), roasted in the oven and brought to room temperature: these are all things which can be done hours (or even the day) before. Herbs might not like to be chopped but they can certainly be picked in advance. Just cover them with a sheet of lightly damp kitchen paper and keep them in the fridge, un-chopped.' – Yotam Ottolenghi.

These Brunsli Chocolate Cookies from Ottolenghi SIMPLE are chewy and brownie-like, and make a great alternative to gingerbread.



Keep it simple

'Choose one or two simple dishes that are beautiful rather than trying to do too many things. That way, you can afford to up the ante on ingredients and presentation.' – Guy Grossi.

Toast the season with a Negroni Sbagliato – a sophisticated Italian cocktail from Cellar Bar.



PPR

'Planning: Work out what you are going to cook well in advance and be sure to be realistic about what you can achieve with the kitchen and equipment you have. For example if you have a small oven cooking a ham, turkey and roast veggies is going to be tricky so spread the cooking techniques out to BBQ, oven and stove top.

Preparation: Start preparing a couple of days before and on Christmas Eve you should be able to get more or less everything ready to go into the oven

Relax: With the above done pour a glass of wine and enjoy the day with loved ones.' – Tobie Puttock

This Stuffed Butternut Pumpkin with Sage, Chestnuts and Cranberries from SuperNatural will make an impressive centrepiece on any table.

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